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Ordained in 2011, Father Friel served for five years as Parochial Vicar at St. Anselm Parish in Northeast Philly. He is currently studying toward an STL in sacred liturgy at The Catholic University of America in Washington, D.C.
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“Indeed, we may not hope for real Latin poetry any more, because Latin is now a dead language to all of us. However well a man may read, write, or even speak Latin now, it is always a foreign language to him, acquired artificially. It is no one's mother tongue. Does a man ever write real poetry in an acquired language?”
— Rev’d Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

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The Gift of Music
published 18 August 2013 by Fr. David Friel

O YOU EVER FALL INTO THE TRAP of thinking that the music you make is your gift to God? To a certain extent it is. Yet, in a much deeper sense, it is not.

After a lengthy passage recalling the Lord’s goodness to His people throughout history, Joshua makes a beautiful observation: “[The Lord] gave you a land that you had not tilled and cities that you had not built, to dwell in; you have eaten of vineyards and olive groves which you did not plant” (Joshua 24:13). Everything we have—material & spiritual—is the gratuitous gift of God. Nothing we could ever do or offer really originates in us. Everything issues from above.

Even the offerings we make at Mass do not truly come from us. The bread and wine, to be sure, are the handiwork of a farmer and vinedresser. But are they ultimately responsible for the bread and wine? They may plant and tend the wheat and the grapes, but it is God Who provides the growth. This notion is included in the text of Eucharistic Prayer IV: “Look, O Lord, upon the sacrifice which You, Yourself, have provided for Your Church.” It’s in the Roman Canon, too: “We . . . offer to Your glorious majesty, from the gifts that You have given us . . . the holy Bread of eternal life and the Chalice of everlasting salvation.”

A popular English hymn elaborates on this idea:

We plough the fields, and scatter the good seed on the land; But it is fed and watered by God’s almighty hand: He sends the snow in winter, the warmth to swell the grain, The breezes and the sunshine, and soft refreshing rain.
Chorus: All good gifts around us Are sent from heaven above, Then thank the Lord, O thank the Lord For all His love.
He only is the maker of all things near and far; He paints the wayside flower, He lights the evening star; The winds and waves obey Him, by Him the birds are fed; Much more to us, His children, He gives our daily bread.
We thank Thee, then, O Father, for all things bright and good, The seed time and the harvest, our life, our health, and food; No gifts have we to offer, for all Thy love imparts, But that which Thou desirest, our humble, thankful hearts.

We see the same truth spelled out in little children. When their parents’ birthdays come around, young children have no means with which to purchase a meaningful gift. Very often at Christmastime, the money children have to buy gifts for their family members is actually given to them by their parents. All that children can offer on their own is perhaps a worthless piece of refrigerator art. What gives such a gift value is that it was made and given with love.

Before God, we all must look very much like young children. Nothing we have is really ours. We cannot fairly take credit for any of our possessions, nor any of our talents. All that we can truly offer is ourselves.

Fortunately, that is precisely what the Lord wants from us.